Jason Pearson, a veteran comics artist best known for his creator-owned book Body Bags, has died. He was 52 years old. According to reports that emerged last night, Pearson may have passed away in December, with a statement from his family suggesting that Pearson passed away on December 19. The cause of death was reportedly a heart attack. After word of his death reached social media, fellow comics creators started to eulogize the artist, celebrating his work and reminiscing about their experiences with Pearson.
Pearson, born in 1970, was one of the founding members of the Atlanta-based Gaijin Studios. He broke into comics with a Star man issue in 1991, and would go on to work on a number of high profile books including Spider-Man spirit Deadpool over the course of his career. Keith Giffen, who worked on the Star man issue, became a mentor and collaborator to Pearson, working with him on Legion of Super-Heroeshis first regular gig for the Big Two.
After an anthology series that Gaijin was pitching to Image failed to materialize, Pearson brought Body Bags to Dark Horse Comics, where it was published in 1992 as a four issue mini-series as the debut title for the Blanc Noir line of titles produced by Gaijin. The ultra-violent series centered on Mack Delgado and his 14-year-old daughter Panda, who are a duo of assassins, colloquially calling themselves “body baggers.” The extreme violence (and the joy characters seemed to get from it), combined with the fact that Panda was depicted as being both very sexualized, and also just 14, drew criticism from day one.
Pearson struggled with both health and deadline issues for most of his career, with the final Body Bags story, which he Kickstarted in 2015, never being released before his death. That first Body Bags story was delayed due to issues with Pearson’s health, and a planned six-issue follow-up later in the ’90s was scrapped after Pearson became sick, and then reportedly decided he didn’t like the work he had completed. It wasn’t until 2005 that he would finally follow up on the project, with Body Bags: Father’s Day, which collected the original four-issue miniseries into two oversized issues. The next year, Pearson would release Body Bags: 3 the Hard Way, which featured one new story as well as reprints of some minor appearances Mack and Panda had made in other books over the years. In 2008, he brought them back in again Body Bags: One Shot.
During the years when Pearson was struggling to make progress on his signature creation, he found work on characters like DC’s Legion fo Super-Heores, Marvel’s Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and Image’s Spawn, Savage Dragon, and Witchblade. He worked on a few Batman stories, as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer at Dark Horse and a couple of Tom Strong stories with Alan Moore for America’s Best Comics.
He also became a cover artist of some note, with his distinctive style jumping off the shelf at an audience. When he was in poor health or struggling with deadlines, covers were a steady source of income, and allowed him to work on characters from Superman to Gen 13 to Black Panther.
In 2022, Pearson told fans that he was working to complete the long-delayed Body Bags: Don’t Die Until I Kill You, which he funded via Kickstarter in 2015. There is no word how close to completion the project ever came. His last published, mainstream comics work came in 2011, when he had a run of work on various X-men titles for Marvel.
Our condolences go out to Pearson’s family, friends, collaborators, and fans during this difficult time.